Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, after a long period of forty days and the six Sundays of Lent that we have spent before this night, we have finally come to the culmination of all of our preparations for this most important event in all the history of mankind and in the history of our salvation. For this very night we commemorate that time when Christ Our Lord, our Crucified Saviour, rose gloriously from the dead, overcoming sin and death, and therefore barring open the gates of hell, showing the triumphant victory of God and His faithful ones against the forces of evil and darkness, against sin and death.
Tonight as we gather together to celebrate the coming of Easter, we rejoice greatly as we finally see the great Hope and Light that Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour had shown us by His glorious Resurrection, that we know that sin no longer has its hold on us, and death no longer has the final say over us. There is life and existence after death, when our physical bodies meet its end in this world, because we shall rise and join our Risen Lord in a new and blissful existence, sharing in the joy of all the Angels and saints in Heaven, to be forever with God and to be in His light and Presence always.
That is why we sing with great joy the Gloria tonight, praising God and singing our joyful heart out, glorifying Our Lord Who has conquered sin and death, and Who has loved us all so much and so dearly that He has done all these things for us, as we look back to our Holy Week journey to remind us of everything that He had done for us. We sing the great Alleluia, the triumphant proclamation of praise and joy, which we have not sung for the entirety of the season of Lent, as we look forward to the true and great joy of seeing God’s light and salvation in our midst, reflecting the joy that the disciples had upon seeing that empty tomb and then later on, seeing the Risen Lord in their midst.
In our many Scripture readings tonight, traditionally numbering seven from the Old Testament, the First to the Seventh Reading, and then two from the New Testament, the Epistle and the Gospel reading, we have heard the long account of God’s plan of salvation for each and every one of us from the beginning of Creation, culminating at the Lord’s Resurrection in our Gospel today where all of God’s plans and promises were accomplished and fulfilled perfectly. Let us look back into those readings to remind ourselves of how beloved we are in God’s eyes that He has done so much for our redemption and liberation from sin and death. We are reminded that He has loved us so much that He gave us His only begotten Son, that through Him we will not perish but have eternal life.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the account of the Creation of the universe, the whole world as know it. Through His will and by His words, all of the universe we created, God creating everything that exists and made everything as He desired it to be, all good and perfect as we heard the Lord Himself saying. He made the firmaments, the Heaven and the Earth, and all the living things, from the smallest to the greatest. The Lord then lastly also made us all mankind, the pinnacle of all His creation, as creatures made in His own image and appearance. He gave us the Spirit of life, and made us all good and perfect.
We may wonder why God had created us all in the first place. After all, is God not perfect and has everything? God has no need or any shortage of anything. He has perfect love shared within Himself in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the reason why God created us all and everything is indeed that love is not truly full and wholesome unless it is shared with even more people. That is why God created all of us, in order to share His overflowing love with us. We were always destined and meant to live in pure happiness and bliss with God, just as how the Gardens of Eden were described as a blissful and perfect place.
It was by our own failure to resist the temptations to sin, in giving to the desires of our hearts that led us into our downfall. Satan, the great adversary plotted for our destruction and downfall, and he knew well how to tempt us. He tempted Eve and eventually Adam through her to disobey God’s commands by eating the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and as a result sin entered by into the hearts of mankind. Ever since then, sin has reigned over us and we have been made defiled and corrupted, and thus we are no longer able to be hiwith God. That was why Adam and Eve were both cast out of Eden.
God created all things good and perfect, and that includes us all as well, brothers and sisters in Christ. But sin enslaved us all, corrupted us and made us all separated from God. Yet, God did not give up on us, and He still loved us all the same. He could have destroyed and annihilated us by the mere power of His will, or to condemn us all to hellfire just as what happened to Satan and all the fallen angels, but He clearly did not do so. He loves us all mankind beyond anything else, as His own most beloved ones, as His beloved children that He has formed and made His own. Because of this, it is natural that God wants to find us and be reconciled with us.
Hence, He promised us His salvation that He would send into our midst, and He made a Covenant with us through Abraham as His effort to rebuild the relationship that has been broken with us, and this Covenant was meant as a reminder of the great love that He has for each and every one of us, that in the end, He did not desire our destruction but instead our reconciliation with Him. That Covenant serves as a reminder of this love that God has for each and every one of us. And most importantly, a Covenant involves both parties that take part in the Covenant, and just as God has reached out to us with love and mercy, then we have to respond to Him as well.
Then, we ought to remember how the Lord blessed and fulfilled His promises to Abraham, and as He has promised to him, he became the father of many nations and many people. These descendants of Abraham, the Israelites, God’s chosen people was led by God to Egypt during the time of great famine, and then blessed them and made them prosper greatly in the land of Egypt which led to them being enslaved by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. But God again showed His great love and compassion for His people, in sending Moses, whom He called to be His servant, and then through Moses and his brother Aaron, God performed many great miracles and signs, sending ten Great Plagues to persuade and force the Egyptians to let His people go free.
In our third reading today, we heard that iconic moment in the history of God’s people, recounting to us the moment when the Israelites were pursued all the way to the edge of the sea, out of which there was no where else to go. They were at the threshold of escaping and leaving behind the land of their slavery towards freedom, on their way towards the Promised Land at Canaan, promised to them and their ancestors from the days of Abraham. They were all afraid and fearful seeing all of the armies and the chariots of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but God was with His people, and He did not just stop those armies and chariots with a great pillar of fire, but He also opened the sea itself before them.
I am sure all of us are familiar with the story of how the Israelites walked through the sea on the dry seabed, and how they were led to the other side through the water, and then the Lord brought the water and the waves down against the Egyptians who tried to pursue after the people of Israel, crushing their armies and chariots, winning a great victory and triumph for the people He had chosen and loved as His own. And this reading is very symbolic for today in particular especially because this night is typically when the catechumens are baptised and therefore welcomed into the Church, and for all of us who have already been baptised, we are reminded of our baptismal promises.
For just as the Israelites were led through the water of the sea, from the land of their slavery into the land of freedom, therefore the catechumens who have committed themselves to the Lord are led through the water of baptism, to leave behind their past enslaved state under sin and death, and be freed by the grace of God to enter into the freedom and true joy that He has called us all to come towards. When we are immersed in the waters of baptism, we leave behind our past lives and are washed clean, becoming a clean slate, beginning a new stage in our lives and existence, transformed into God’s own adopted children, His sons and daughters. And all of us who have been baptised earlier are reminded of this moment when our lives are transformed forever.
And through the other Scripture readings that we have heard today, in the prophets and how they speak of God and His care and love for His people, reminding them of everything that He has done for them, again and again throughout the ages, and all of us are called to refocus our attention on the Lord, keeping in mind that God has been so loving, kind and merciful that He has always been willing to reach out to us, forgiving us and welcoming us back to Him whenever we sinned. The Lord has given us all the means for us to return to Him, because He loves us so much more than He despises our sins. Nonetheless, as mentioned before, because of sin we have been corrupted and made defiled, and we have been separated from God because of this.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God gave us His only begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be Our Saviour, and through Him all of us have received the assurance of eternal life, all because of everything that happened that time which we celebrate now, the moment when He overcame sin and death, gloriously triumphant through His Resurrection. By His Passion, His suffering and death, Christ has taken upon Himself all of our sins and faults, our mistakes and all the punishments due to those sins. He redeemed us by offering Himself as the perfect and most worthy offering, the only one by which all of us mankind can be absolved from our many, innumerable sins.
While Our Lord endured death and descended into hell after His passing on Good Friday, He did not remain in death forever, showing us all that death has finally been overcome, for the Master of Life and Death Himself has come to liberate all those who have been awaiting Him to see the hope of their salvation. That was why when the Lord rose gloriously in His Resurrection, many eyewitnesses saw the tombs of the righteous were opened and the souls of the deceased righteous went out and were taken by God to their rightful place in the afterlife.
According to Church tradition and teachings, the Lord went down into hell, in what is known as the harrowing of Hell, as God liberated all those who were deemed worthy of salvation and brought them out of their waiting place, and you can just imagine the kind of joy that those souls of the faithful departed must have upon witnessing the light of the Lord coming into their midst, liberating them, much as how the Israelites were led out of their slavery in Egypt into the freedom, and to the Promised Land. And all of us share in this same joy because through baptism, in fact, we have also shared in the death of Christ, dying to our old ways of life, and striving henceforth, to live lives truly worthy of God.
That is why we rejoice this Easter, brothers and sisters in Christ. We rejoice because through Christ, we have received the assurance of true happiness and we are all made His beloved children, called to be His disciples, and through our common baptism, we have been marked as God’s people. We are now members of God’s Church, His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one united Body of Christ. However, at the same time, we also have to remember and keep in mind that we cannot be idle in the living of our faith.
That is because although today, the Easter Vigil is the pinnacle of our entire liturgical year, remembering and celebrating the single most important event in our entire human history and existence, but we must remember that Easter and our baptism is not the end journey, but only the beginning of the journey towards God. Just as the Israelites in the past have had to travel for an entire forty years, before they actually reached and entered into the Promised Land, and they fell again and again into sin, the same applies to us all as well. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and our desires, then we can easily fall back into our old sinful path and way of life again.
We have to keep this in mind as we celebrate the most wonderful and joyous festivities happening today this Easter Vigil. That we must not forget our calling in life as Christians. We have to follow the Lord and walk in His path, having seen the hope of His light and salvation, and the empty tomb showing us hope that there is path beyond sin and death. Through Christ, His loving sacrifice on the Cross and most importantly, His resurrection from the dead, He has shown us the path out of darkness and into the light.
God has established a new Covenant with us, and as we all should be aware of, this Covenant requires us to be actively doing our part of this Covenant, and means that we have to be active in contributing to the Church, in living our lives with faith, dedicating ourselves to serve Our Lord in all times and opportunities. We have to walk this path with faith, and realise that there is still a long path forward for us. Let us all be inspirations and good examples for one another, and be good role models and witnesses of Our Lord’s truth and resurrection in our community and world today. Let us all be true Christians in all things, and proclaim the Lord in all opportunities.
May the joy of Our Risen Lord be with us always, and may He empower us all to remain firm in faith, and that we may always ever be committed to Him, no matter what challenges, trials and temptations may be present in our path. May God bless us always, in everything we do, and may all of us have a blessed Easter season and celebration. Alleluia! Our Lord is Risen! Amen!